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November 7, 2011 8:23 PM   Subscribe

If I get attached to people easily, how do I learn to pace myself so I stop getting hurt when things don't work out?

I am a female in my mid 20s living in a fairly large North American city. I have been casually dating for most of the year, meeting men mostly through online dating. I am a pretty extroverted person and I think I relate well to others so I don't usually have a hard time getting along with people.

I'm getting more and more frustrated with dating because I don't know how to stop myself from developing feelings "too soon". Example: the most recent guy that I dated. We went on a few dates, and after date #3, we made out and cuddled for a few hours. When the night ended, he kissed me goodbye and texted me on his way home to say he was looking forward to seeing me again. Two days later, he tells me he's not attracted to me and he wants to call it off. Then I feel stupid for having been excited about where things were headed.

I'm okay with people not being attracted to me and I know things won't work out with everyone, but I find it difficult to not get excited about dating someone with whom I've had 3 great dates and some really awesome kissing. I don't date people just to date them (I've broken things off with guys because I wasn't feeling it), so this isn't a matter of being happy about everyone I date/everyone that's willing to go out with me. When I like someone and they seem to reciprocate I'm happy about it, but now I'm never sure when I should let myself feel good/safe with those feelings.

How do I know when it's okay to let my guard down? How do you date people without getting excited about it, even if it's going well?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think it's not a bad quality that you have. Too many people are too guarded and set huge barriers around them. I think it's great that you were excited - nothing to feel stupid about.

I understand the concern about the let down when things don't work out but having the highs of the chase and infatuation are great things to experience. Too many of us grow apathetic over time and aim for a steady state. I think that the highs and lows really make you appreciate the good things in life.

Relationships are sort of goofy. There is no right way to act or not act - you just have to eventually click with the right person. Now you can go about this in a few ways:
1. Throw enough shit at the wall and something is bound to stick - by going on loads of dates you get to experience many people and hopefully stumble upon Mr. Right
2. Analyze and look for only those traits and people that you know will be a better fit for you i.e e-harmony or whatever. If you are short on time or want to avoid some inevitable dumping you might prefer this. I would say though that you may miss out on your perfect match too. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have met my husband through a computer match because we aren't really matched in every way - just the right ways I like to think.

I don't think you need to change anything about yourself - you just need to accept you may be hurt a few more times along the way before you find your perfect match.

Good luck
posted by YukonQuirm at 8:31 PM on November 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


You don't. Well, I never figured it out, anyway. It's hard not to doubt yourself when your hopes don't match up with the outcome, but don't get sucked into thinking that the problem is the fact that you have feelings. Getting jaded is a one-way trip to bitterville.

Dating is always a risk. It sucks, but it is. But if you close yourself off from the bad, you'll miss the good (cliche, i know). Concentrate on getting more comfortable with uncertainty than trying figure out what benchmark equals "safe". We all want a sign that this is a relationship we can count on, but that sign doesn't exist, or only does in retrospect. And accept that disappointment comes with the territory, and know that you can handle it.

I'm sorry this guy didn't work out. It's so frustrating when it seems to come out of the blue like that.
posted by elizeh at 8:44 PM on November 7, 2011


Us guys can be pretty weird about relationships. Just because this one dude wigged out for no reason doesn't mean you did anything wrong. Getting excited about people that you might have a thing with isn't bad either. To often people in our age group do everything they can to "play it cool" and not get emotionally involved.

That said, when you think its going somewhere and then all of a sudden it all falls to shit, it will always hurt.
posted by KeSetAffinityThread at 8:48 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


My theory is that you shouldn't date people if you're not excited about it.

One of the drawbacks to being a warm, gregarious, outgoing person is that you're constantly putting yourself out there and constantly getting hurt by the cold world. That sucks. There are things you can do to mitigate the pain, and experience is a big part of it, but I think it's very difficult to be the person you want to be and not get hurt.

The thing is, though, that everyone gets hurt. So it's better to be the person you want to be, because you're not going to avoid pain anyway. You certainly shouldn't seek it out, and you'll learn some of the warning signs to dodge unnecessary frustration, but even with the best of intentions people hurt each other.

So it's far better to be excited, to be open, to seek out the good and new, and to hope. It will sometimes feel like it's more trouble than it's worth, and sometimes you'll feel stupid. Trust me, it's better to feel stupid sometimes because you risked, than to feel regret because you didn't.
posted by Errant at 9:06 PM on November 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


Well, I'm going to turn your question around a bit to ask you, what's the point of dating if you aren't going to let your guard down and get excited?

I, too, don't think you need to change something about yourself. Except, perhaps, to lower your expectations in the early days. I can totally relate to how you're feeling, but if you start pulling back too far emotionally, you're probably decreasing your chances of getting beyond casual dating anyway.

Just think to yourself: this is just a guy, I'm just a girl, and this is just one date. I know, it sounds cheesy, but reminding yourself to just take it one step at a time can really help you put these dates into perspective and if it doesn't work out, you can bounce back much more easily than if you start tunnel-visioning on every guy you *click* with.
posted by sm1tten at 9:12 PM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is how I've always been, too. Yes, there are most certainly people out there who aren't like you and who won't get it, but you don't need to date them. Probably shouldn't, in fact. Find your fellow romantic who is also a great match for you, and go crazy. I know it's hard, but it will happen. I went with OKCupid, and I'd call it a success. Been married for 7 months, and we couldn't been more excited about one another! Good luck!
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:25 PM on November 7, 2011


What would life be without excitement? Yeah it always sucks to be let down (it will never not suck), but nothing beats the feeling of being excited about someone. Never turn that emotion off because it's hard to turn it back on once the thick walls are up. Dating is always a crap shoot regardless of someone's level of excitement.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:29 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


While the majority of comments as far have been about how it's not wrong to be excited and how great of an asset it is, etc. etc. etc, I beg to differ, because you need to differentiate between getting excited over possibilities and getting excited over what actually is. While it's not necessarily wrong, the reason why you're being let down so often is because you're doing the former, not the latter, and I would encourage you to channel your excitement more into the present than the future.

That is to say: from what you have been saying, it sounds like the aspect of a relationship that you get excited over is the idea of "what it can be". When you're on your third date with someone and it's going well, an image of wherever your romantic inclinations are headed. You envision the walks down beaches and wedding bells and white picket fences and babies and growing old together (I'm generalizing because I don't know what your ideals actually are), and you're getting attached to those feelings rather than the ones that are actually happening around you right now.

Don't. Beyond setting you up for disappointment, it's very painfully obvious and scary for the other person as well.

What you should be getting excited over is the person (and their relationship) as they stand before you in the present. Rather than escalating the relationship in your head, enjoy their company as it is in the present, from a realistic stand-point. You can still retain your exuberant nature, because there'll be plenty of things to be joyful about in the present, but you're not setting yourself up for failure by advancing your relationship into the deep end before it's actually there.

It's a little abstract and I've having trouble fully fleshing out the concept concretely myself, but those are my thoughts and I hope it helps just a little.
posted by Conspire at 10:12 PM on November 7, 2011 [16 favorites]


It seems to me that the guy is the one with the problem not you. If you like someone and enjoy making out of course you're going to look forward to seeing them again. Who wouldn't?

Don't let one weird encounter throw you.
posted by fshgrl at 10:17 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


People are too scared of being hurt these days so they are not willing to love opening. I don't think there is anything wrong at your part. I know it sucks when it's not working out, but it's a good thing that it ends before it went to far. Just keep looking!
posted by artofgiving at 12:22 AM on November 8, 2011


I'm getting more and more frustrated with dating because I don't know how to stop myself from developing feelings "too soon". Example: the most recent guy that I dated. We went on a few dates, and after date #3, we made out and cuddled for a few hours. When the night ended, he kissed me goodbye and texted me on his way home to say he was looking forward to seeing me again. Two days later, he tells me he's not attracted to me and he wants to call it off. Then I feel stupid for having been excited about where things were headed.
I don't blame you for being frustrated over this one, in fact I don't blame you one bit for being frustrated with the whole dating thing — it's a real wrist-slitter for me, mostly I just want to hurl myself off a cliff. Some people just glide along and all is well, some have experiences such as you had with this idiot. But I have to tell you that you are *supposed* to feel excited about having three damn good dates and then some sweet kissing and warmth for a few hours on an autumn night, then that text on his way home … It sounded great. You're *not* being stupid. At all. I don't know what's up with this guy, no way that you can either. But you did nothing wrong. Plz don't change because of situations like this.

I'm okay with people not being attracted to me and I know things won't work out with everyone, but I find it difficult to not get excited about dating someone with whom I've had 3 great dates and some really awesome kissing. I don't date people just to date them (I've broken things off with guys because I wasn't feeling it), so this isn't a matter of being happy about everyone I date/everyone that's willing to go out with me. When I like someone and they seem to reciprocate I'm happy about it, but now I'm never sure when I should let myself feel good/safe with those feelings.

You sound like a real citizen. Everything you wrote here points to that. Dating is hard hard hard, or it damn sure can be. There's most often no logic to it — if you're looking for patterns, forget it. You're *supposed* to be happy about these things. You're not doing anything wrong.

How do I know when it's okay to let my guard down?

It should be okay to let your guard down by the time you've had three great dates with somebody who really blows your skirt up, and then some sweet, warm hugging and kissing with them, and great residual buzz afterwards to boot, that friggin' text. (I know it's an anonymous question and all but if you'd like, send me an email, I'll come up there and choke this dope.) Again, I hope you won't change that; you'll be cheating yourself. I understand wanting to protect your heart. But tell me — how can you protect your heart from this? Can't be done, that I know of.

How do you date people without getting excited about it, even if it's going well?
You're having a hard run. You're a citizen, you need not take anything second best and you're not, you sound great. You are correct to have expectations by this time.

Anecdote: My sister became an oncology nurse in her late thirties, early forties. My sister is a real lover, heart big as Dallas and twice as pretty, and she knew that being an oncology nurse she was going to see a *lot* of suffering, see a lot of people who she'd become close to die, see children die in horrible ways, on and on. An oncology nurse for christ sakes — that's as real as it gets.

She saw that she was at a crossroads. She saw that she was going to have to either harden her heart, to become cold, or enlarge her heart, make it big enough to deal with the certain suffering that she was going to be experiencing. She consciously chose warm, she consciously chose a bigger heart. Isn't that just the best? This world is far, far the better for it. She's wonderful. An amazing woman. I love her all to pieces. She's my very favorite person.

So. If I had to say anything, advise anything, I would say please don't guard your heart and/or get cold, to avoid that pain. Rather, to get used to the idea of pain, but know that opening your heart in the face of it gives you so much more, and not just when that lucky guy comes along but the whole of your life, and the lives of those you touch. There's plenty of cold people out there — including this fool who set you aside — and I'd surely hate to see you turn that direction.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 1:04 AM on November 8, 2011 [10 favorites]


Don't harden your heart; just practice concentrating more on what's happening now and let what might happen later take care of itself.

In other words: the feelings you're "developing too soon" are not your problem. Those are good things. You want to keep those.

It's the feelings you get when something doesn't work out that are the actual problem, and you can lessen the hurt of those by conscious practice in letting things be as they are rather than getting upset because they're not as you'd prefer them to be.

The hoary old cliche applicable here is "if you love someone, set them free; if they don't come back, they weren't yours to begin with".
posted by flabdablet at 1:44 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've recommended this book so much I automatically preface it with the disclaimer that I am not the author, really.

If the Buddha Dated is the one and only "relationship advice book" I've ever thought was worth a tinker's damn, and it helped me with precisely this. It didn't help me STOP getting that excited about guys early on -- instead, it helped me CONTEXTUALIZE that excitement. Rather than turning off the "weeeeee woo-ha!" It helped me not go "weeee-woo-ha! This is IT!" And instead think "Weeeee whoo-ha!" But this is just the beginning, but being excited about the beginning is fun in and if itself so that's okay to just enjoy this beginning excitement becuase it's still fun! Weee!"

It also helped with the "oh alas it's over woe is me!" and the "oh my god I'm acting like such a spaz oh help what do I do" and all the other emotions that happen with dating. Yeah, the "Buddha" approach does involve a bit of Buddhist/Zen spiritual language, but it's not an "all-Buddhist All-the-time" approach; the author is actually UU, I believe, and also incorporated Sufi thinking and Quaker beliefs into some of her advice. It really helped to sort of re-frame the wacky emotions you're going to go ahead and feel anyway, and helped teach me how to think clearly and calmly and compassionately towards both myself and the object(s) of my affection. Give it a shot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:28 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just wanted to say that I'm in the same boat. With the guys I like it's just this endless cycle of fall/get back up/fall/get back up/fall/get back up/date a creep for a bit and break it off/fall/get back up....

One thing I have learned to keep my sanity (and self-esteem) is to keep your friends CLOSE. Make it a priority to spend time with your friends at least once or twice a week. Your friends love you and make you feel good (hey! that's why you're friends!) - it will help you from getting down on yourself, over analyzing and feeling bad. Also, this is a prime time to join a club or pick up a new social interest. I joined a local running club and have met some awesome new friends through that. It's also my little bright spot of sanity in the middle of the ridiculous dating world. In fact, I actually decided to pull my online dating profile awhile ago because life has become so full with friends/social club/etc. that it's just more enjoyable.

Give yourself space to take a breather if needed, especially if the fall/get back up cycle starts really grating on your self esteem. Dating is really tough. Good luck.
posted by floweredfish at 7:04 AM on November 8, 2011


Having been on the other side of this, I can explain why I've acted this way. Not sure about this dude or any other dudes, but here goes.

You go on some dates. Things seem pretty great. This girl isn't crazy, in fact she's nice and she's attractive. You think "wow, this is going to be great. I really like this woman."

But you're not actually attracted to her. You think you should be, but you're not. On a chemical, spiritual, whatever level, there's just no spark.

And you feel bad about it. So maybe you go out with her again just to see if you're wrong, because there's nothing wrong with this girl and you really should like her. You even succeed in convincing yourself that you do. For a minute. Or at least another date.

But then, at the end of the day, when you're lying in bed, trying to sleep, you admit it to yourself - you're just not attracted to her. You want to be. You've even acted as if you are, hoping that everything will just fall into place, but you know it won't. You know you're going to just end up breaking up with her eventually. And that's really mean - so you don't want to make it last longer than you have to. You have to break it off before it gets any worse.
posted by kpmcguire at 8:23 AM on November 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


What Conspire said.

It's okay to be all excited when you buy a lottery ticket because woweeee millions of dollars yay!!! It's not okay to run up credit card debt because you're going to be rich rich on powerball night.

Enjoy your emotions, but don't bank on them.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:33 AM on November 8, 2011


I'm the same way and one of the prime advantages of being married was not having to do this again. I think as long as you're not like suicidal after someone turns you down, it's fine. Just be self-aware (Which you are), know that you're maybe a few pegs above where you should be and keep your expectations in line. Also, enjoy mopey records and a little self-pity from time to time, but don't be afraid to get back on the horse.
posted by GilloD at 9:56 AM on November 8, 2011


This example seems to suggest that something else is going on in this case: "We went on a few dates, and after date #3, we made out and cuddled for a few hours. When the night ended, he kissed me goodbye and texted me on his way home to say he was looking forward to seeing me again. Two days later, he tells me he's not attracted to me and he wants to call it off."

I can't help thinking that they guy probably wasn't really into you. He was just hoping to get laid, and when that didn't happen, he bailed. And, frankly, that's good for you because it probably means he wasn't what you're looking for anyway! ...not that it doesn't make you feel bad.

The problem with emotions is that they are both good and bad. But it doesn't sound like you did anything wrong at all. And, really, by a third date with some making out and cuddling, I'd be getting my hopes up too.

I think it's fine to be a little excited after three great dates. Hell, I'd feel bad if I had three great dates with someone and she wasn't a little excited about it too.

The real problem is when people get super excited after ONE date. Or, worse, before there even has been a date. But it doesn't sound like you're doing that.

The bottom line is this: sometimes, dating sucks. It can be the worst thing ever. Oh, but there are those times when dating can be the best, Best, BEST! Thing! Ever! You have to accept the goods with the bads and do your best to keep it all in check.

And that's my advice to you: keep it in check. It's ok to be a little excited when things seem to be going well early on. But remind yourself to keep it in check. And, whatever you do, don't become jaded. The worst thing you can do is make future guys pay for the mistakes of previous guys.

Best of luck to you.
posted by 2oh1 at 12:46 PM on November 8, 2011


I am just like you, though a bit older. I try to keep in mind two things:

1. Making out is fun, the good shmoopy feelings are good, and being able to even experience those feelings are good, so the time spent wasn't a total waste -- sort of similar to the Buddhist approach above. Live In the Now, not the imagined future.

2. If this guy decides he isn't into you, better now than later; also, it's not You, it's Him (there's nothing wrong with you, there's probably nothing wrong with him; try not to take it personally).

I also feel free to share the story with my friends for commiserating/validation purposes. ("He texted you that sweet message and then broke it off? What a jerk!") It helps me not turn it all inward and into "what did I do wrong?" And then move on to the next fellow.
posted by chowflap at 1:02 PM on November 8, 2011


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